Holman set to return for Braintree but Sparkes is a doubt for U's visit

Braintree and Witham Times: Alan Devonshire (right) and Keith Rowland. Alan Devonshire (right) and Keith Rowland.

Braintree manager Alan Devonshire has said he expects striker Dan Holman to return from a back injury for today's Skrill Premier game against Cambridge United at the Amlin Stadium.

Holman played when the U's beat the Iron 1-0 on Boxing Day, but came off at half-time due to a back spasm and then missed Braintree's 2-0 win against Tamworth on Saturday.

However, Dan Sparkes may miss out today after an impressive display against the Lambs last weekend because of a groin problem.

Meanwhile, Braintree assistant manager Keith Rowland feels it is a “terrific achievement” for the Iron to have got themselves as close as they have to their 50-point target with just over half of the Skrill Premier season gone.

This time last year, Braintree were just above the relegation zone, but they now head into their New Year’s Day home fixture against Cambridge United sitting tenth in the Conference top flight and just four points shy of the play-off positions.

Today’s game will give them a quick chance to set the record straight after the U’s narrowly beat them at the Abbey Stadium on Boxing Day.

And a win would also take them to within three wins of achieving the 50 points that boss Alan Devonshire feels will guarantee their place in the division for another year.

His team head into it on the back of a dominant display against Tamworth last weekend and Rowland knows how important that was.

He said: “To get another result against another full-time team is a great result for us.

“It gives the lads a little bit more confidence to go into the Cambridge game.

“What we have always said to the players, this season more than any, is that we want them to stay in every game.

“Apart from the game against Barnet at home, we have done that.

“At Cambridge on Boxing Day, we did it again and their keeper pulled off a great save in the last two minutes.

“If we’d got a point at Cambridge, it still wouldn’t have felt as if we’d nicked it at all.

“I felt we deserved something, but we moved on straight away like you have to and, like we’ve reiterated to the players, when you’ve lost a game you get the next points.

“That is key.

“Picking up points is key to where you are in the league and now it sets us up in a position where we’re halfway through the season and have an opportunity of going into the New Year on 40 points plus.

“That’s a terrific achievement.”

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